10th Circuit upholds San Juan County race-and-redistricting decision

San Juan County, Utah, has had a long history of trouble, over several decades, with respect to providing equal opportunities for the Navajo community, including in voting. Today, the 10th Circuit affirmed a lower court opinion redrawing the district lines of the county commission and school board to provide opportunity for the Navajo community. Opinion here.

For those keeping track, it’s 2019. The fight over these district lines began in 2011. Section 2 of the VRA is powerful … but also sloooooooooow. That’s part of why it’s so important to restore an alternative to responsive litigation under the VRA for jurisdictions that seem to keep having repeated difficulties.

(Disclosure: one of the claims in this case was that the county had to do what it did because of a 1984 consent decree with the DOJ. Both the trial court and court of appeals rejected that assertion. I was serving at the DOJ while part of this litigation was proceeding.)


“Some Fear Undercount As Texas Decides Not To Spend Money On 2020 Census”

Well, that’s an interesting strategy:

You’ve got to spend money to make money. But that’s not the way Texas, and a handful of other states, are looking at the 2020 census. Officials in Texas have decided not to spend any money or make statewide plans for the census, despite the fact that the state experienced massive population growth in the past decade.


Trial begins in party ballot position case

Trial has started up in Florida over the law automatically placing candidates of the governor’s party in the first position of the ballot.  I’ve been watching this case pretty closely; it’s a really interesting test of the prevailing constitutional doctrine for evaluation of electoral regulations.


“Surge In Voters With Disabilities May Influence 2020 Election”

A reminder of a significant population often overlooked when summary stats are compiled.

In 2018, 14.3 million people with disabilities cast ballots, more than the 11.7 million Latino voters that year and nearly as many as the 15.2 million African-American voters.

What’s more, the report found that an additional 10.2 million voters last year were people who live with someone who has a disability. When these voters are added to those with disabilities, that means that 20 percent of all voters in the 2018 midterms came from what the researchers called “disability households.”

Also — hey, look, it’s National Disability Voter Registration Week!


State v. county election systems management

An important story in Washington State about the integration of county registration systems into a newer statewide system.  It’s not important because it’s particularly new or surprising (it’s neither), but just as a reminder of the details to be ironed out in any new election-related I/T system.  They don’t just happen magically.


“Diversifying the Donor Pool: How Did Seattle’s Democracy Vouchers Program Reshape Participation in Municipal Campaign Finance?”

A new paper about Seattle’s campaign finance voucher program, from Brian McCabe and Jennifer Heerwig.  I’m looking forward to reading this one.

The abstract:

In this paper, we evaluate whether an innovative new campaign finance program in Seattle, Washington shifted the composition of campaign donors in local elections.  In 2015, voters in Seattle approved the creation of the Democracy Voucher program with the intent of broadening representation in the campaign finance system and expanding participation from marginalized communities. Every registered voter in Seattle was provided with four, twenty-five-dollar vouchers that they could, in turn, assign to the local candidate(s) of their choice.  Through an analysis of the inaugural implementation of the program in 2017, we investigate whether this innovative public financing system increased participation, broadened involvement from underrepresented groups and led to a donor pool that was more representative of the electorate. Compared to cash donors in the municipal election, we report that voucher users are less likely to be high-income and more likely to come from poor neighborhoods.  While older residents are over-represented among voucher users, there is little difference in the racial composition of cash donors and voucher users.  Our analysis confirms that the Democracy Voucher program successfully moved the donor pool in a more egalitarian direction, although it remains demographically unrepresentative of the electorate.  The lessons from Seattle’s inaugural implementation offer key insights for other municipalities considering public financing policies, and these lessons have the potential to reshape the national policy debate about the influence of political money.


Thad Hall to get ballots to the bottom of the Grand Canyon

Former election professor Thad Hall is practicing what he preaches, moving to become the Director of Elections in Coconino County, Arizona, from a similar gig in Richland County, South Carolina. 

Among other attributes, Coconino is “the second largest geographic county in the contiguous United States, one that includes a chunk of the Grand Canyon — including a polling location at the bottom that can be reached only by helicopter or donkey.”

(h/t Doug Chapin)


“Presidential popular vote compact would lead to chaos”

Sean Parnell, over at The Hill, notes some concerns about the National Popular Vote compact.

Some of these concerns have to do with the fact that different states have different rules for administering elections.  I’ve got mixed emotions about NPV myself, but I’m not sure why the simple fact of different rules in each state necessarily implies more trouble in ascertaining the total.  Or why a vote with consequences calibrated to the national total necessarily implies a perfectly uniform set of national rules.


“A question to repeal national popular vote compact in Colorado is poised for 2020 ballot”

Advocates say they’ve got the signatures.

An extra note of significance:

If certified for the ballot, it would be the first time since The Great Depression that Colorado voters would decide whether to repeal or reaffirm a law approved by the General Assembly and signed by the governor. In 1932, voters repealed a law that increased the tax on oleomargarine.


New volume of the Harvard Law & Policy Review is out

Chock full of election-law goodies.  Among other pieces:


Interesting suit against AZ initiative signature law

Arizona law invalidates any signatures collected for a citizens’ initiative, referedum, or recall by a particular circulator, if the circulator is paid or from out of state, and if that circulator is subpoenaed in a challenge and can’t appear in court. A new lawsuit filed this past week challenges that law. Should be interesting.


“How Trump can mitigate the damage of folding on the census”

Hugh Hewitt’s op-ed suggests that the president should have refused to quit on the census case, and calls for a motion for reconsideration in the Supreme Court. 

For perspective, it also claims that “the Supreme Court sat on the decision with the clock ticking,” and that the “White House counsel’s office has slowed to a crawl on judicial nominees.”


“Taking political financing private may be legal, but looks wrong for Gillum”

One Floridian commentator’s take on the flow of funds between PACs and c4s. 

FWIW, I’m not sure the particular objection highlighted here makes much sense.  It protests the funding of a c4 from donations collected for a PAC, on the basis that the funding isn’t transparent.  That PAC money has all been disclosed – it’s likely the most transparent of the money the c4 is collecting.


Citizenship and the Census: Behind the Bluster

Hansi Lo Wang points to a July 3 census filing under the Paperwork Reduction Act (the weeds matter, people) in which the Department of Commerce, “having carefully considered the matter, has determined that there is not sufficient time to develop an alternative record to support inclusion of the citizenship question.”  That would have been really awkward to explain in another return to the courts.

The same paragraph also says that the Secretary has directed the Census Bureau to “produce citizen voting-age population (CVAP) information prior to April 1, 2021 that states may use in redistricting.”